Black Moon Over Ross Bay was a show that black metal fans the world over (for real though. Germany, Brazil, the USA and more were all represented in the crowd that night) had been waiting for. Blasphemy aren’t exactly a touring band that you can just catch the next time they roll through town. They rarely play shows and when they do it’s never for more than a handful of dates, usually in far flung parts of the world. Besides the rarity of their shows in general, Black Moon Over Ross Bay was a performance on the soil that birthed their war metal sound back in 1989. They haven’t played a show in Vancouver since 2002, which was later released by Nuclear War Now as the Live Ritual – Friday the 13th album and there’s a good chance it will be another almost 2 decades until they do again. In short, Black Moon Over Ross Bay was a ritual not to be missed.
Weregoat were head scratchingly up first on the bill, a move that seemed to confuse everyone in attendance. It’s a shame that they played first (at 7:15pm on the dot aka ultra early opener spot) because the majority of the audience missed out on a fantastic set that put a couple of the latter bands to shame. The crowd that was did get to watch Weregoat perform was appreciative of their brand of black metal though as they, covered in spikes and fur and looking like primeval barbarians going through lycanthropic moon withdrawal, howled down rage from the stage.
Hellfire Deathcult on the other hand made it clear almost immediately that they were worshippers of the wet cardboard box drum sound and thankfully, short sets. The wet box sound works for me sometimes on an album but I’ve never been impressed with it live. It just muddies up a sound that already doesn’t always come across well in a live environment and makes it even more difficult to listen to. I will commend them on forgoing corpse paint in favor of balaclavas, which are a much more eyebrow raising way to conceal your identity in modern times. I’m almost certain I would appreciate Hellfire Deathcult more in album form, where I would be more able to appreciate the intricacies hidden in all the noise.
Valkyrja are essentially Watain lite. They sounded great (maybe it was just because they weren’t pounding on a wet box they stole from someone in the alley) and they have their performance locked down, but I can’t help feel like I’d seen it somewhere before. I guess there are only so many flavours of black metal to chose from, but at some point someone had to have looked in a mirror and realized they look like Erik Danielson. Maybe this is another case of me needing to go back to the album so I can appreciate their live performance as many in attendance were into Valkyrja’s brand of hellish metal, but for me it came off as a watered down version something I’ve already seen.
Little known black metal fact: You are required by kvlt law to have minimum one band with a “goat” name on the bill. Lucky for us, the promoters doubled down and landed one of the best goat bands currently out there – Archgoat. Their stage show was appropriately demonic and they sounded absolutely ferocious in spewing black death on all gathered. If Archgoat had been the sole headliner everyone would have gone home satisfied, but then it wouldn’t have been a Black Moon Over Ross Bay would it?
Blasphemy are probably the most evil thing I’ve ever seen get up on a stage and perform. I really dislike using that kind of metal rhetoric (brutal, evil, et al.) to describe bands but evil is the most applicable word for them. The energy rolling off that stage was so potent it felt like waves crashing into the audience, leaving them weary and battle worn by the end of it all. Blasphemy hammered through almost every song in their repertoire during their set, the live renditions even more powerful than their recorded counterparts. I’m convinced that unlike some of its more depressive counterparts, war metal needs to be experienced in a live environment, as loud as possible, to fully understand. The only other performance I’ve seen that even comes close to achieving such an oppressive atmosphere is Portal, and Blasphemy managed to do it with far less set dressing.
Thanks to all the bands and to Modified Ghost/Covenant for making this show happen. I’m sure it will be whispered (and shouted, let’s be real) about in dank hallways of metal houses the world over for years to come.